On a recent visit to the Kutch region of western Gujarat in India, we saw these Rabari women busy spinning wool at the workshops of master weaver Vankar Vishram Valji in Bhujodi.
The Rabari, an indigenous tribal caste which probably originated in Afghanistan, traditionally led a nomadic life raising sheep, camels and goats, and spinning their wool. They exchanged their hand spun wool for hand woven clothing and blankets. As elsewhere in the world, attitudes in India towards tolerating nomadic groups have changed, and only a small number of Rabari are now truly nomadic. However, one can still see them moving through the arid desert region of Kutch, carrying their tented homes with them.
The award-winning Vankar Vishram Valji weavers are some of the most respected and accomplished weavers in Kutch. Under the management of Shamjibai, they are committed to keeping alive the dying craft of hand loom weaving and natural dyeing in the face of stiff competition from machine woven cloth, man made fibres and chemical dyestuffs. Shamjibai has encouraged these Rabari women to continue their traditional hand spinning for his weavers.